How Are You Handling Customer Complaints?

I can’t believe that many marketers still ignore customers who are dissatisfied. Especially since most of the complaints make their way to social sites.

Ignoring them won’t make the problem go away, and if the non-responsiveness continues, you may get a tweet with #FAIL attached to it and you’ll be part of an elite group (where you don’t want to be in) who have failed their customers. This is more of a problem for B-to-C companies than B-to-B, but none the less, you still shouldn’t ignore people. Fear and lack of resources are cited as the two most  reasons why companies don’t respond. You probably should rethink your priorities.

According to a recent survey done by, only 34% used social media to respond.

Engagement in Social Media According to B2B Marketing Executives in North America, May 2011 (% of total)

Another study by Maritz and Evolve24 showed that only 29% of the tweet gripes were responded to. As Jay Baer says, these channels are the social telephone. You’re missing the boat  for several reasons. One is that 83% of those who complain online want to be answered there. Secondly, those who complain on Twitter are already disproportionately upset and ignoring them will only add gas to the fire.

People complain on Twitter because they have already went through traditional means with no resolution. I can attest to this as I’m still fighting with Travelers Insurance on a hail claim on my roof. After getting nowhere with the local adjusters, I was venting on Twitter about it and lo and behold, I got a Tweet back asking me to call an advocacy number. While it didn’t solve my problem (they sent my complaint back to the local adjuster and now I’m one of his favorite people), at least I thought they tried to defuse the situation.

Research has shown that social media users want to be responded to even if a company wants to take the conversation offline. At least they acknowledged you.

So what are you doing to handle complaints on social media?

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  1. Holdcom

    I feel like these statistics should be higher! Social media is a great way to interact with customers and address customer service issues. Businesses should monitor their social media accounts closely and see what Tweeters are saying about their brand. If you have a heavy call flow for customer service, make sure you tell your customers on hold how to find you on social media so they can communicate with a rep there.

    Here is an article about how airlines use social media for customer service and customer communication

  2. Katie

    Many good points made here. Truth be told, complaints made on social media platforms should be a top priority since they are so public. Just think of potential customers who might be turned off by your company when seeing a complaint go unanswered–that alone should drive you to address those issues immediately.

  3. patmcgraw (@patmcgraw)


    Great post – but how does a small business that has limited hours of operation meet the expectation that questions/complaints delivered through social media channels receive an immediate response? (And recent research from CMO Council found that a high number of people expect immediate response from social media channels.)

    Sure, assigning a Twitter account to a service rep will open up that channel during working hours but there are a lot of businesses that can’t justify monitoring Twitter 24/7.

    Second, I’ve had a similar experience where traditional channels failed and I turned to Twitter for a little venting aka ‘customer testimonial’. And I have to admit that the action/progress I received via the company’s employee on Twitter was even more annoying…as if the poorly trained employees are assigned to phone duty and the effective employees are assigned to Twitter.

    The process/customer experience needs to be the same regardless of channel, right?

    Again, thanks for a great post.

    • tradesmeninsights

      Thanks for your insights. For small businesses you don’t have to monitort 24/7. If someone can monitor during regular business hours that is just fine. I think people just want to be heard and responded to. I too have used Twitter to vent and have found both positive and negative experiences. It’s important that whoever is responding realizes that at this point the one who is complaining is probably not in a good mood and it’s best to let them vent. Most of the time I suggest that you try to take it off line by offering an e-mail address fro them to send to or a phone number to call in so you can hear their issues 1st hand and then try to resolve them. Lots of people think that a resolution has to be immediate and in most cases that’s true. As I like to think when handed lemom make lemoade. We need to look at this as an opportunity to not only help the customer but also maybe review an internal policy or proceedure that initated this complaint so you can fix it for the future. You can be sure that if there’s one person who verbalizes a complaint to you on socail there are probably 10 more experiencing the same issue.

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